As an artist there are times when a performance or certain events give you so much life. Your favorite artists will often talk about what they don’t like about being an artist but there are definitely good moments. I had an amazing weekend of poetry on December 17th and 18th filled with so many lessons and great moments, I thought I would blog about it. This past weekend was definitely a great one in the life of this artist.
Saturday the 17th found me at a local poetry slam put together by a fellow poet friend. This was his third annual poetry slam titled “ SoulSpit Poetry Slam” and it was one for the books! The host of my friend’s slam was his mentor out of Texas and most of the competing poets came from out of town. The slam was in Louisville Kentucky but artists came from Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina to compete for the $1,000 cash prize. I had no idea of anyone’s credentials or anything like that, I just wanted to spit some poems and have fun. It turned out that I was the only one to participate from the local scene but that didn’t faze me. I had spent two weeks rehearsing my poems and the order they would be recited in. It wasn’t until the slam actually started and I heard what these poets were bringing, that I began to second guess myself. My wife was with me and we had just talked about me having more confidence, so I went ahead and did my poem.
I ended up making it to the second round and a fellow local poet who was just there to observe was like “Kenny!” They commented that this slam was cut throat and just looked at me and shook their head. I took that to mean that they were confused about why I was even competing. I shook it off and spit my second piece. It turned out that I was in fifth place and missed making it to the final four by two tenths of a point. I felt good and accomplished and enjoyed watching the rest of the poets compete until they had a winner. After the slam, I looked up two of the poets who stood out to me. Turned out the winner had toured for over ten years as a professional poet, was the only African American Male to ever win the World Poetry Slam, had been on TV, and this brother even had an Emmy! You wouldn’t know it cuz he was so low key and he dapped me up both times before I touched the stage. I looked him up on YouTube and saw that he had many pages worth of recorded performances. Another poet from the final four of the slam had a few videos up on Youtube and I had a new appreciation of the company I had just been in.
I believe that my ignorance saved me. I had absolutely no idea who I was slamming against, what company I was in, I just went in to have fun and prayerfully impact a person with my poetry. I believe that if I had known who was who that could have unnerved me and even made me back out of the slam, even though I had been looking forward to it for almost two months. Sunday the 18th found me at a church performing an Advent themed piece. The church booked me for all four of their services so I was at the church pretty much all day. The church was so warm and appreciative of my gift and thanked me multiple times for serving them with my gift. One of the things that touched me was after the third service had finished, a young woman came up to me and said that she was at the slam the night before and appreciated that I was the only Christian artist on the stage. I was touched. What if I had put on a face and acted out of character last night cussing and doing all sorts of foolishness? There would have been someone who saw me in that environment and then in my church act. I praise God that I strive to be the same artist no matter what stage or environment I find myself in. I’ve been to clubs, performed and saw folks cussing and talking dirty but see them in church less than 12 hours later. It’s a very jarring and unnerving thing to experience. You never know who is watching you and believe me, someone is always watching.
Last weekend just taught me so much and I just wanted to pass on the knowledge to you. Stop doubting your talents, comparing yourself to other more seasoned individuals in your scene and craft, and just do what you do best. I promise you will touch someone, as I had someone say that the first poem I recited in the slam touched them. Realize that as great as you are there is someone better but that by no means belittles your gift or even the assignment you believe God has given to you. Also, if you are going to be a Christian artist make sure that your life and art matches up no matter where you are because your circles do overlap like a Venn Diagram. People are always watching, they may never say anything to you, but there is always someone with an eye or two on what you are doing. You won’t always win in this life as an artist, but I believe you can succeed. This life of an artist is not for the faint of heart.